Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Dirty Cowboy: A book review turned diatribe about book banning

When bugs start setting up camp in and around his body, a cowboy hitches up his horse and rides down to the river with his dog who is instructed to watch the cowboy's clothes while he bathes. But problems arise when the dog, no longer finding his owner's scent familiar, doesn't allow the cowboy his clothes back.

The writing is full of humor and lush sensory details and the illustrations are hilarious, beautiful, and endearing at the same time.

Which is why it angers me so much that the Annville-Cleona school board in Pennsylvania recently voted 8-0 to ban this book from the school's library after a parent complained that the book was pornographic. First of all, there appear to be a large number of people in this country who need to be schooled on what the word pornography means, which is, "writings, pictures, films, etc. designed to stimulate sexual excitement." There is nothing in this book even remotely sexually stimulating. It is a funny story about a cowboy taking a bath and whose dog won't give him his clothes back. Period. No kids are going to take this book into the bathroom with them and use it like teenage boys use a Victoria's Secret catalog.Yes, the cowboy is naked in a large portion of the story, but Adam Rex skillfully and humorously illustrates each picture to display different obstacles (a frog, birds, a dog's tail) to prevent us from seeing anything obscene.

When Adam Rex found out the book was officially banned from the district's two elementary schools, he posted this on his Facebook page:

The Superintendent went on record as saying that he voted to remove the book from all schools because "parents should have the right to decide whether or not their children view this book."

At the time of this writing he has not yet died of irony.
Irony indeed. In the meantime, do the book world a favor and go out and buy this book. Show book banners that the only thing you do when you censor books is give those books an even bigger voice in the world. 

The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex
Published: August 2003
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux 
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade
Disclosure: Purchased Copy


  1. Irony indeed! I've starred this post in my Google Reader so I can remember this book. It truly sounds silly and fun and perhaps a little bizarre!

  2. Seriously? Wow!!! Pornography????